This article is from Issue 19 of “On The Move,” a publication of new learning possibilities for churches, at one time published by The Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand.
Although some ideas and liturgies may appear somewhat “dated” in style, concept, imagery or language, they may nevertheless offer a spring-board for new ideas among people who find themselves leading worship, perhaps in a new context, and with some trepidation.
Reproduced by permission. May be reprinted for use in local congregations only.
PALM SUNDAY PEOPLE
by David Lewis
Prior to the commencement of the service a brightly coloured cloth was placed across the steps to the sanctuary of the church. Another piece of material was draped across one corner of the communion table.
When this segment of the service came, I walked across to where I had left the brightly coloured cloth, sat down on the steps of the sanctuary and wrapped the cloth round my head. I then told The Childs story, following the script but not reading it.
We had looked forward to our trip to Jerusalem tor months.
Mum and Dad had saved hard.
It took us several days but at last we reached the Holy City.
It was so beautiful and there were many, many people.
Everyone was happy and excited.
There was colour everywhere and music and laughter.
It was festival time and everyone was enjoving themselves.
Then, one morning, something special happened.
We were walking along a main street when people started getting excited.
There was pointing and pushing, everyone wanting to see.
A procession was making its way along the road.
Mum and Dad pushed us through the crowds so that we could be close to the road.
We found ourselves with lots of other children, all of them eager to see.
I expected another Army Parade,
with a Roman general riding his big white charger
flanked by armed guards looking proud and fierce.
It was nothing like that!
Instead I saw a man riding a donkey
and people around him walking, some even dancing,
and children too, hundreds of them, and they were waving palm branches.
And something else;
there were men and women running ahead of the donkey
to place their cloaks in the road fur the donkey to ride over.
I still remember the feeling of excitement and joy that swept over me.
This was different.
And at the centre of everything was this man.
He seemed so strong and gentle;
he didnt look around like the Roman generals did.
And yet as he came closer and looked at us,
I had the feeling that he was looking straight at me, that he knew me.
When he looked at me I forgot everything.
I forgot about Mum and Dad and I forgot I was in a strange city.
I rushed out with all the other children.
From somewhere I found a palm branch and I waved it,
and shouted with all the others, Hosanna!
I have never been so happy and excited in all my life.
I knew that something very special was happening, and I was part of it. I shall never forget that day.
What happened then will be part of me for the rest of my life.
As I saw that man Jesus riding on the donkey surrounded by those people
somehow I knew that he was coming for all people,
for everyone, and that included me, a child.
And something else.
I also knew that what he was doing was right.
He wasn’t strong, or proud, and he wasnt powerful,
and I knew that what he was doing was going to cost him.
But I knew it was right.
I couldnt explain it then, and I cant explain it now. I just know. Just like any child.
All the children with me that day, we knew,
and because of that, we ran, and we danced, and we sang Hosannas,
and we waved our palm hranches.
I was glad I was in Jerusalem, that day, for just that.
When I had told The Childs story I removed the brightly coloured cloth, stood up and walked to the commumon table. I took the cloth draped on the table and wrapped it round my shoulders. I then took Clive Sansoms book The Witnesses, and read The Donkeys Owner.
At the end of this I removed the cloth and placed it with the book again on the communion table. I then moved to the side of the pulpit and removed my alb. Under the alb I was wearing a blue and white striped rough-looking shirt. Leaning casually against the pulpit I then told The Disciples story.
Peter is my name; you have heard of me. Yes. I was there that day in Jerusalem.
Sure it was festival time and the crowds like a good show.
They were quick to get into the marching, and singing, and dancing, all of them waving their palm branches.
Anything for a bit of fun and excitement.
But I dont trust the crowds.
I didnt like it one bit. The children are different.
They are so open, so quick to respond, they are alright but the rest well, you know what happened!
I tell you, I was scared!
Ever since that day at Caesarea Philippi when I had said what I didnt fully understand:
You are the Christ, Son of the Living God.
Ever since then he had been different. Like his mind was elsewhere,
his face showed it all right.
Determined and distant.
He talked about dying and when I told him I didnt like it,
I copped it for speaking my mind.
So youll understand I wasnt too happy that day in Jerusalem.
He had planned it all, down to the last detail.
Not a word to any of us, and we were his best friends.
I thought he was being provocative.
After all there were parades every day
with the Romans marching down our streets
with their polished armour and their swords flashing in the sun
and the war horses and bands.
Right show-offs, the lot of them! So Jesus has his parade.
Except he rides a donkey and the people cheer him and love him;
its one in the eye for the Romans!
And there was no mistaking what Jesus had in mind.
This was the Passover festival
when our people celebrated the great deliverance we call the Exodus.
And here was Jesus choosing that very moment
to enter the Holy City as if he was the new Deliverer.
He knew that, and he knew evervone else knew it.
I tell you, that was making for trouble!
What I will never forget is the way he rode into Jerusalem. It was uncanny.
Sitting on that wretched animal with a milling crowd of poor peasants and eager pilgrims
giving him a bit of a welcome.
And vet, he rode like a king and the kind of king who really cared
and he accepted all the cheering, yet not a hint of being proud.
And all the time that same accepting, determined look about him.
He knew this had to be, come what may. I tell you, I was proud of him and scared for him.
There could be no holding back now.
All I could do was watch and follow, and be there come what may.
Who would have thought all this would happen with a man riding a donkey into a city?
But it did, and I am here to tell you so that you dont miss out
on what happened because of that day and the days that followed.
Comment: The fact that I, the minister, took each of the three parts, moving from one to the other and using the cloths etc. to take on the new role, had its impact. Another approach would have been to have three actors taking the roles. I regard either approach as valid and effective.